Attwell backed over Kuyt goal
Liverpool's first goal after six minutes brought howls of protest from the visitors after the referee adjudged Sunderland defender Michael Turner had taken a free-kick when he backheeled the ball towards goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
The centre-back gifted the ball to Fernando Torres who ran through the Sunderland defence and set up Kuyt to score.
It was unclear if Turner had deliberately taken the free-kick or just knocked the ball back for Mignolet to take it but Attwell, who did not see Turner backheel the ball, allowed the goal to stand after consulting his linesman.
"When the first goal went in, everyone in the ground knew the free-kick hadn't been taken," disappointed Sunderland manager Steve Bruce told the club's website.
However, the Premier League's Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) board later reviewed the goal and said in a statement that "the correct decisions were made".
"According to the Laws of the Game, having stopped the game for any infringement the referee is required to 'indicate the restart of the match'," it said.
"In practice, in the majority of cases, referees indicate for the restart by gesturing to players to take the kick. These gestures can be minimal... there is no requirement by Law to use the whistle to make the indication.
"The ball is then in play when it is kicked and moves. So, in this case, the ball was in play as soon as it was kicked by a Sunderland player."
"Also, the Laws state that the free-kick must be taken from the place where the infringement occurred. Again, in this case, the referee correctly determined that the free-kick was played from the right place."
Two goals from England striker Darren Bent had later given Sunderland the lead before Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard grabbed a 64th minute equaliser for the hosts.
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said the referee was right to allow Kuyt's goal to stand.
"I thought it was a good bit of quick thinking from Torres and Kuyt," Hodgson told the club website. "I don't think the first goal should have been ruled out."